Amazon’s Russell Morris on changing the face of television (Wired UK)


Amazon Instant Video’s Russell Morris wants to
change how we access TV shows

© Amazon

Russell Morris is the Marketing and Merchandising Director of
Amazon Instant Video in the UK. As the service launches sci-fi
drama Extant, one of its biggest exclusive titles, Morris
speaks with on bringing the service to the UK, the
changing face of audience interactions with their media, and the
future of television content With the exclusive content for Amazon
Prime, how are you approaching things differently compared to
Netflix’s model?

Russell Morris: There’s a mix. I don’t think
anyone knows the right way to play it right now. We’ve tested
different ways, like playing it all out in one go. Vikings
season two was our first example where we followed release in
America and so we had episodes out week by week. What we found out
from that is people that love episode one, tell their friends, so
they tell their friends. That means you get double the people
watching episode two. And that builds until you have the finale. We
found people were not just starting season two but season one. So
it was interesting to observe the customers.

The Prime service offered streaming content to American
customers long before the UK. Was that a restriction of Amazon
having bought out LoveFilm and having to keep that brand going in
the UK?

There was no restriction. Putting the two services together is a
hard, unenviable task. Once we made the decision, it was a case of
the putting the two together in a way that was technically good. As
soon as it was ready, we made it available to customers.

Is there any reason it wasn’t made available together as
a complete package with LoveFilm?

Well, we did offer Amazon Prime customers discounts on LoveFilm.
In that way, it was a precursor to making the decision of taking
the harder task of bringing the two services technically

Given Amazon offers purchased content as well as
subscription streams, are customers approaching Instant Video
differently than other services?

We are one of only two services in the UK that offer both
transaction video on-demand and subscription video on-demand. Our
aspirations are very large. We already have the largest
subscription on demand service in terms of content and our
transaction service has sixty thousand items which is growing very
quickly. Yes, it’s true that people will watch seasons one and two
with our subscription service when season three is on transactional
content, but often the reverse is true — people will watch
transactional content then say ‘this is easy’ and start to think
about joining Prime to stream on subscription.

As consumers move away from physical media, does the
appeal of getting the physical shipping side of Prime

That’s the difference between Europe and America right now –
because that is what we do. Right now we are offering a monthly
package, £5.99 a month, for customers to have access to everything
our Prime customers have but for an extra £7 a year, you get access
to Amazon Prime, which would have cost you £49 at the start of
February. So for people who like the streaming service it quickly
makes a lot of economical sense to buy into the shipping service.
On that basis, we find many more customers pick our annual service
than monthly.

What kind of feedback have you had since

Incredibly positive. We are ahead of our expectations in terms
of customers understanding video comes as part of the service.
We’ve recently completed some research on Prime customers showing
they’re very aware of the benefits, and a high percentage of
customers have given it a try already. So we’re very happy about
that. On the back of that, our one-day delivery service or our
unlimited streaming service are being renewed at higher rates.

One of the things I’ve noticed just as a user is content
curation can be quite irritating, particularly for TV content,
where different seasons of the same show might be presented as
separate entries. Any plans to overhaul the interface?

Yeah. We always look to improve the user experience and that is
something that we’re very much looking at. Some things are good in
different situations, where maybe we should bring things together
under one franchise. So it is something we’re looking at and when
we have time to prioritise that it will get done.

Beyond Spielberg and Berry’s involvement on
Extant, there are other original shows with key talent
involved planned for launch soon. Can you give us a run down of

The plan is that Roman Coppola’s Mozart in
the Jungle
will launch this year on Amazon. There will
also be a show called Transparent
with Jeffrey Tambor which is undecided as to premiere date yet but
will probably launch at the end of quarter three of this year.
Those will be followed by The
, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi by The X-Files’
Chris Carter, and Bosch
[a police procedural based on the novels of Michael
and starring Titus Welliver as
the titular detective, Harry Bosch] both of which have been
critically acclaimed, in the early part of next year. Alpha
, the comedy with John Goodman, is part of the original
wave of Amazon Originals and we will be launching season two of
that this year.

With shows like Extant produced in conjunction
with more traditional networks such as CBS, does Amazon have as
much influence over them as Netflix does with its original

One of the key differences between us and Netflix is that we
have our own studio and Netflix don’t. When it comes to Amazon
originals right now, these were made in conjunction with us and the
talent and they’re only available through us. Things like
Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, those
are great quality productions and they’re comparable to us buying
into Extant. In these situations, sometimes it makes sense
for us to work in conjunction with the studio. An example of that
would be Vikings. We had season one and season two before
they were available in the UK on the History Channel. Now that the
History Channel is playing it out episode by episode, that’s great
for them but it’s also great for us because people are being
exposed to that great content and check out the first two seasons
with us. The deal with CBS is launching with America in a few days
and then it comes to the UK a few hours after that.

Do you see the end of global regions for media coming

Yeah, with content it tends to be on a region-by-region basis,
particularly for TV content. The studios often look for exclusive
arrangements. It may well be [something like] in the US, Amazon
Instant Video has HBO content but in the UK right now, we don’t.
But we will also then have studio content here that
customers can’t access just now. The big difference for our service
though is because we have the transactional service as well as the
subscription service, which isn’t available through our
competitor’s services. In the future, the only place to come for
all content will be Amazon.

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